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ZURICH CLASSIC OF NEW ORLEANS


April 21, 2015


Steve Stricker


AVONDALE, LOUISIANA

JOHN BUSH:  We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker into the interview room here at the Zurich Classic.  Welcome back to this tournament.  If we can get some thoughts on being back?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, it's been a little while since I've been back, but I've always enjoyed coming here to New Orleans, and playing here at the TPC and enjoying the fine hospitality New Orleans has to offer.  It's always fun to be back.  I'm excited about the week and playing here again.
JOHN BUSH:  Yeah, talk a little about your season up to this point for us?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, there isn't much of a season.  One event played at Augusta a couple weeks ago, and first event back since having surgery in December, so it was good just to make the weekend and play four rounds and get a couple of competitive rounds under my belt.
So I come here with some excitement.  My game feels okay.  I'm excited.  I'm fresh, and I'm ready to play and hopefully have a good week.
JOHN BUSH:  Now that you're healthy, just your schedule here over the next month or two?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† Yeah, I'm still going to be in the early stages of coming back, and I still need to be somewhat cautious, so I'm going to play probably week‑on, week‑off, week‑on, week‑off schedule into June and see how it goes from there.¬† But so far I feel pretty good and strong.
I guess, strength‑wise, I'm getting stronger and things are improving.¬† So all good things so far.

Q.  Coming back from surgery and bringing your game back, what kind of realistic goals do you set for yourself when you come here?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† If I can‑‑ I guess it's always about playing well for me.¬† No matter what tournament I go to, I want to be prepared and to play well, and this is no different.¬† Even though it's only my second event, I have high expectations of what I can do and what I should do.¬† So I come here thinking that I can play well, but deep down I know it's a process and I've got some work to do.
I don't know how consistent my game is at this point, but I'm doing some good things out there.  I'm still doing some bad things that I need to kind of shore up and get better.  But, yeah, I expect to come in here and play well and hopefully I do play the weekend.  My goal is to make it to the weekend, no matter what tournament I'm in.  That is the first step, and then go from there.  But, yeah, I'm excited to be here again.

Q.  Are you happy you got to play at The Masters considering you've been off so long?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, I guess I hit it better on the weekend.  The first couple days I kind of guided it around, just trying not to make a mistake, and it's tough to play well when you do that.  I got better on the weekend and I kind of relaxed a little bit more, and my swing got a little bit freer, I would say.  I did some good things there.  I putted and chipped it really nicely around there, so that was good to see.
So, yeah, it will be interesting.  It's only my second event this year, and it's been a while.  I always enjoyed playing here at the TPC and look forward to doing it again.

Q.  Any chance to play the course, and what's it feel like?
STEVE STRICKER:  I was here Sunday when the course was closed and I was able to sneak out, which I guess I shouldn't have, and played about two holes.  They quickly kicked me off the course, but it was really, really wet.  Then I played yesterday morning before we went fishing in the afternoon.  So we got up early and played yesterday morning, and it was still really wet.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I played this afternoon how much drier it's become.
So hopefully we can dodge those rain showers that are forecasted for here and get the tournament in.  It should just keep getting better every day and drier every day too.

Q.  Are the emotions or is the dynamic different from when you were trying to refine your game years back as it is now, just trying to get healthy and play your game?  Are there similarities, differences in your mind?
STEVE STRICKER:  I think a little bit the same, except I'm probably a little more relaxed with things now than I was say ten years ago when I was trying to find my game.  I would say that I'm more comfortable in my own skin and what I do out here on TOUR is just kind of bonus.  I've kind of relaxed my schedule the last few years, so that's probably why I have this attitude about playing.  I'm much more excited to play when I do come to an event because I'm not playing as much.  I enjoy my time at home probably more so because I'm spending bigger blocks of time at home.
So right now I have really the best of both worlds, and I really enjoyed that, and that's what I'll continue to do all the way up to the senior TOUR when I start playing some of that.  Yeah, so it's been a good mix of things.  I'm still very competitive though.  I say I'm pretty relaxed and casual with things.  But when it comes down to it, I really still want to win again and play well and maybe make another team event before all is said and done.  So I still have some drive in there.

Q.  Was the wife ready to throw you out of the house?  How did you settle on the New Orleans tournament?
STEVE STRICKER:  No, the kids have been enjoying having me home and so has my wife, Nicki.  They all said how different it was going to be this week when I left because I had been home for so long dealing with the surgery, and they've been coming with me.  They came with me to Augusta.  So none of us have been apart for a week for a while.  So, no, they were a little bit sad to see me leave and I was too.  It's a little bit different now.
But why I settled on here, I always have this in the back of my mind here playing.  It's really how the schedule works out sometimes.  I'm not going to play Match Play.  I'm not in Match Play next week, so it was just a natural fit for me to come here.  Like I said, I've always enjoyed coming here, and I have enjoyed the tournament.  The tournament people here do a great job, the volunteers, huge support from the community, and the food when you go back into the city to stay at night is tremendous.  So all the things.  It's always been one of my favorite events and it hasn't fallen into the proper schedule of mine in previous years, but it did this year.

Q.  (Indiscernible) have you played that a lot before?  What can players expect?
STEVE STRICKER:  I don't know.  No, Chambers Bay is out in Washington.  I don't know.

Q.  Whistling Straits?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, Whistling Straits.  Yeah, we've had it there before.  It's a Pete Dye.  It's kind of visually intimidating.  But once you've played it a few times you get to see that there is some room to play.  Just at times he doesn't let you see it, but it's right in front of you.  It's pretty fair.  It all depends on what kind of weather conditions you get coming off of Lake Michigan.  But I'm looking forward to that being right there in my home state and at the end of the year, so looking forward to that.

Q.¬† Did you play pain‑free through The Masters?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah.

Q.  Talk about your practice leading up to a tournament like this?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† Yeah, I was pain‑free through Augusta there.¬† I felt like I got around it pretty well.¬† Had some issues maybe at the end of rounds where I got stiff and felt like I was a few years older than I was.¬† But I feel better here again this week, and I guess it's just the more reps I get in and the more practice I can do without hurting or doing any more damage, the better off I can be.
So I've been practicing pretty hard.  We've been able to play at home finally.  The snow is gone, the courses are open, so I've been able to do that.  I got down here early to get some putting and chipping in around down here.  So I've had some decent practice coming into here.

Q.  I know that you're concentrating on this week's tournament and this is still a year and a half out.  But looking ahead to the Senior Tour, are you excited about the champions experience?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† Yeah, I am.¬† I am.¬† I think I've got eligibility out here through my 51st year or 52nd year.¬† So I'll have some dual membership on each Tour, which I don't know what I'm going to do at this point.¬† Whether I see how I'm playing out here or maybe focus full‑time out on that Champions Tour.¬† Whatever it's going to be, it's probably going to be in the 12‑ to 15‑event range.

Q.  Out here?
STEVE STRICKER:  Well, together, or one or the other.  So I really enjoy that.  I've had my goal, I've had my fun out here, and it's time to be home a little bit more like I decided a couple years ago.  Like I said too, I feel like I've got the best of both worlds now where I'm very excited to play when I do come out, and I'm very excited to be at home when I'm at home.  So it's been a good balance.

Q.  Did you feel empathy for Furyk finally getting back in the winner’s circle?  Did you feel that?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† Oh, yeah.¬† I sent him a text right out of the chute to congratulate him.¬† John and I and Mario, my manager, were talking about it on the way here how happy we were for him.¬† He hasn't been able to finish off or has gotten snake bitten a couple times the last five years‑‑ more than a couple times, a lot of times.¬† To see him finally get back in the winner's circle was cool to see because he's a friend of mine and he's a good guy.¬† Like we were talking, it would have been easy for him to kind of just say it's going to happen again and fold up after‑‑ who made the putt?¬† Kisner.¬† Yeah, I drew a blank.
After Kisner made that 20‑footer on the first playoff hole and Jimmy still had a 10‑footer or so to tie him, so it would have been easy to just not make that putt.¬† But he did, and he birdied the next to win it.¬† So it was really cool to see and fun to watch.

Q.  Making the team, is that one of your still goals is that a viable goal?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, for sure, if I play well enough.  Probably not this year.  I don't know how many events I'm going to get in this year just based on I got off to a late start.  But next year is a Ryder Cup year.  If I play well and like I know I'm capable of playing in the limited amount of times I've shown that I can still do that and make a team like that and still be fun to be a part of a team.

Q.  I'm sorry if I missed it, but did you say if you have any goals or expectations this year?  Is it to compete, get a win?  What are you looking for this year?
STEVE STRICKER:  Just to get back healthier again.  Obviously, to try to get back in that winner's circle again would always be fun.  It's been a few years for me also to get back in there.  But that's always the goal when you come out here is to compete and play well enough to get in that winner's circle and win again and all the extra benefits that come along with it like going to Hawaii.  I hear that every day from my kids, "Can we go to Hawaii again?"  So that's my motivation there again.
Yeah, and to feel healthy is the first part.  It's been a good start.  The Masters I felt good, and I feel good so far here this week, and hopefully just continue with getting my body stronger and playing better.

Q.  Does the surgery help you with your casting?
STEVE STRICKER:  No, I'm still a bad caster.  Thanks.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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